With US flights to these European capitals set to soar, we take you off the beaten track in London, Paris and Rome.
For Europeans, fall in America looks like the stuff of wanderlust, with fiery trees and pumpkin spice lattes à la Gilmore Girls.
But it’s a European autumn that many Americans are eyeing up this year, according to the latest findings from Tripadvisor.
74 per cent of US citizens surveyed report they will travel this season – and international trips are on the rise as post-pandemic travel finally bounces fully back.
“City breaks are most popular with travellers this fall, as familiar favourites in Europe and Mexico continue to shine,” according to Tripadvisor’s report.
Paris, Rome and London were in the top four most popular destinations for Americans this autumn – in good company with Cancún in second spot.
Three-quarters of US travellers plan to return to a destination they’ve visited before, says Tripadvisor, as repeat destinations give travellers a greater sense of security. But tourists are also keen to explore these destinations in more depth.
There are so many layers of history and culture in these cities, you could return time and time again and discover a new street, scent or scene. But if the European capitals of England, Italy and France are on your list, here are some steers to send you slightly off the beaten track.
Illumination, dinosaurs and an underrated viewpoint in London
We’re assuming you’ve covered the basics – gazed up at Big Ben, rotated around the London Eye and felt the shiver of history in the Tower of London.
But there are plenty of more niche attractions to explore. Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn is one unique spot; the architectural treasure chest of a man who once held a party around his newly acquired sarcophagus. There’s also a folding wall – behind which more paintings lie. The windows and coloured glass panes are so beautifully arranged as to give the whole experience a special aura.
For more fantastic lights, head up to God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow, north London. This is where neon and lightbulb signs come for a second life as Insta-backdrops. There’s a little cafe inside, and it can’t fail to lift your mood as you kick back with a coffee and bathe in all the neon.
Far down on the other side of town is Crystal Palace Park, an especially great green area for kids, who will love the dinosaur sculptures. Take their dimensions with a pinch of salt however – real Jurassic lessons are best learnt at the Natural History Museum. Not far from Crystal Palace in southeast London is The Horniman Museum, another family-friendly attraction.
Finding a good viewpoint is an essential part of any city trip.
The problem is, everyone else has the same thought (and the same snaps) and it can be a pricey point on the itinerary too. For better value for money, why not climb the Monument to the Great Fire of London – only £5.80 for a thought-provoking view over the Thames river.
Sewers, jazz bars and a sultry jazz bar in Paris
Let’s get it out the way: the Eiffel Tower is easily one of the most overrated tourist attractions in France. Save your elbows and euros. In fact, if you overlook monumental Paris entirely – including the Arc de Triomphe – you’ll find some fascinating attractions below ground.
You can learn a lot about a city from its sewers, as visitors to the Paris Sewer Museum will discover on a tour through this historical underbelly.
The Catacombs provide a more macabre route through the city’s tunnels, with arrangements of skulls and philosophical musings on the ‘l’empire de la morte.’
Re-surfacing, you can walk up to the Luxembourg Gardens for some fresh air, and admire a bit of miniature boating on the duck pond – a charming activity for children. For a more peaceful spot in this magnificent park, seek out the Medici Fountain in the northern corner, where you can easily while away an afternoon with a good book.
Of course you won’t struggle for places to eat in Paris, but for a lively atmosphere you might not have encountered before, try Le Marché des Enfants Rouge in Marais.
Le Lapin Agile is a sultry jazz bar in Montmartre you won’t find on any of the tourist recommendations. The performances are in cabaret-style, so expect to hear some old French classics like Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg. A show will set you back €35, but a drink is included in the price and – trust us – it’s worth it for that chic, Parisian experience.
In terms of areas, Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement is not a ‘quartier’ many tourists have heard of. Although it’s a little further out, there are some great boulangeries and typical squares around every corner where you’ll see Parisians enjoying their morning café in the sun. Batignolles is also home to a tiny, little vintage shop called ‘Fripery Paris’ on Rue Boursault which has some beautiful items, all handpicked by the owner.
Hilltop views, authentic cuisine and gorgeous gardens in Rome
Our local writers have given us plenty of recommendations for Rome over the years, well away from Tripadvisor’s most booked experience: a skip-the-line group tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
One way to get an alternative view over Rome’s awe-inspiring skyline is to head to Aventine Hill on foot or bus. Here you’ll find a large square and a wall of white stones, belonging to the Priory of Knights of Malta. You’ll spot a queue of people (this is Rome after all) eager to look through the keyhole of its green door.
“When it’s your turn, look through and you’ll see in the distance the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, perfectly framed between rows of trees,” writes Italian journalist Lillo Montalto Monella. “The best time to visit is in the morning when the sun rises over the city.”
Evenings are aperitivo time in Rome, also best enjoyed with a rooftop view or in the lively Campo de’ Fiori market.
Rome’s great beauty is plain to see, but it also exists in the smallest of details. ‘Britalian’ journalist Andrea Carlo describes discovering it in hidden courtyards, secret churches and ancient Roman mosaics in the basement of small restaurant Trattoria Tritone 1884.
“Rome is not just about its centre. Its real spirit, and its most authentic cuisine, can only be found in its working-class suburbs, known as “Borgate.” They’re still untouched by mass tourism and well worth a day of your trip,” Lillo advises.
For a serene day trip, take the bus east out of the city to the Tivoli gardens at Villa d’Este. Here you’ll find stunning fountains and ponds at different levels – and the perfect place to recuperate as you prepare to soak up more culture back in Rome.